Why Are They Pursuing Snowden With Such Vigor?

by Daniel Russ on June 24, 2013


You have to wonder why President Obama’s administration is going after former NSA employee Edward Snowden with such ferocity. Already it’s Sunday and the US is chasing him through the Far East and Central Asia. Does he have something even more damaging than the fact that the United States has been vacuuming up digital communications from all of us, and all of our allies and our allies’ embassies? Does he have information with him that is so much more deleterious that we would actually try and vacate him from the premises of an allied country’s embassy?


What is remarkable about this is the divide I see between people and the government. I never dreamed the US government would spy on everyone and lie about it. I never dreamed that those in power would so unapologetically and so fecklessly defend the spying and hem and haw about how bad it is. Democrats and Republicans in office alike are holding onto their positions of power, they are pushing back hard to keep their ill-gotten information back alley legal. It’s quite literally unbelievable to see Democrats and Libertarians in Congress defending this massive act of purloining our conversations, our associations and our opinions. People on the left and right are incensed and the media of course is still concentrating on the important issues: Jody Arias and her murder conviction, Kim Kardashian’s ass and what not.


It is as if those with their hands on the levers of the surveillance state, those being supported by it, those empowered by it, those in power, all of them have already colluded in a backroom deal to keep this secret and if it gets out to keep it alive. He is determined to show everyone what they are building and they are determined to keep what they are building a secret.


I wonder if Snowden says this is the most corrupt government in the world because he has something no one would believe given that we can all hardly believe the spying went this far already. Snowden seems to be implying that the US is building a spy network so massive that he had to speak out before it was finished. So the people who purportedly are protecting us are literally destroying our right to privacy and rigging the Internet so the government can control the flow of information though it.


Today I listened to some right wing talk radio and as much I couldn’t believe it, I agreed with the host. He said Hong Kong and China thumb their nose at the US Justice Department requests to extradite Snowden because simply stated Obama is a weak president. They called his bluff and left the US attorneys standing there while Snowden headed off I suppose at this writing to Ecuador.


Obama is a weak president. He can barely pass anything with teeth, or get a nominee into a seat; even with more executive power than any previous president. He acts like a victim of Republican obstructionism but he doesn’t seem to fight very hard. Obamacare doesn’t work in many states, the bankers continue to get a free pass on the theft of the century, desperate Americans are falling through the cracks and he seems like a lassitude has set in his agenda. It’s almost as if he is already gliding to his post presidency. His hand in the cookie jar response to the scandal is feckless, sad, like finding out your spouse is cheating, but she makes dinner and watches Mad Men like nothing transpired.


The problem with the NSA debacle is that the entire act obviates the presumption of our own innocence. It’s a massive sting on everyone and the evidence of our wrongdoing sits on a server until the state is ready to access it. This is an astounding overreach in power. It was done to all of us. It was done without our consent or knowledge. And now that Snowden has let the cat out of the bag, the government, those in power, whether legislators or the million or more vendors working at the surveillance apparatus do not want this power taken from them. The security state is here, in all its nightmarish Orwellian glory. And we watch impotently as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are shipwrecked for telling us something that we want to know and have a right to know.


Falguni A Sheth in Salon talks about Hobbes and Locke as proponents of the notion that the state itself has the right to visit violence upon citizens through Police or the Army. This is an implicit agreement in our civilization, a protocol that we will not cotton to random citizen on citizen violence – rather the police can take care of that for us We pay them to do that and abdicate our power to resist. Falguni further argues that the state’s authority itself was threatened, its power was threatened, which rendered this a worse crime to state officials than say what Rumsfeld and Bush did to lie us into a needless and bloody war.


“How might this apply to Edward Snowden? Snowden’s crime, if you will, was that he disrupted the state’s ability to protect its monopoly of violence by exposing its widespread surveillance activities. He did this despite the widely claimed fears of interested parties that doing so would “undermine national security,” and in the face of the state’s insistence that these activities are justified and justifiably secret. In this sense, the fact that he challenged the prerogatives of the state itself makes his alleged crime so much more transgressive than, for example, merely lying to Congress about weapons of mass destruction, starting a war with a random nation in which tens of thousands die, or torturing rendered persons. None of these latter crimes are a threat to the state itself, and for that reason may be readily forgiven and forgotten. Manning and Snowden are, however, “great criminals” in that their actions embarrassed and undermined state power. They can never be forgiven or forgotten.”


There might be another reason the pursuit is so zealous. Perhaps there is something else he knows. Something else must be on his laptop and that’s why he ran. That could be it too.







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